Deterring crime: How publicans can keep themselves and staff safe

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Deterring crime: There are ways publicans can help increase a pub's safety (Image: audioundwerbung/
Deterring crime: There are ways publicans can help increase a pub's safety (Image: audioundwerbung/

Related tags: Crime

It seems that we live in increasingly violent times. And with those threats coming from a wide variety of sources, the need for planning, training and an action plan is more pressing than ever

Running a pub can provide you with a fantastic life, but there is also a much darker side. By opening up your place of work – often also your home – to people off the street, you are making yourself vulnerable and a potential target to criminals and troublemakers.

In recent months, The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) has reported on tragic incidents in pubs, including muggings, burglaries, fires, fights and attacks by men with machetes.

This month alone, MA ​has written about multiple arrests after cars crashed​ into two Kent pubs, armed police swooping on a Middlesbrough pub​ after a “large scale incident”, teenagers smashing pub windows and beating up a customer, shots being fired​ in a Manchester pub, and a murder investigation being launched​ after a publican died from a gunshot wound in Kent.

Even darker, this year has seen major terror attacks in the UK, one of which, in the London Bridge area, saw both pubgoers and staff among those affected.


According to the office of national statistics, the volume of violent crime being dealt with by police has increased significantly over the past few years, up 19% in the year ending June 2017 compared to the previous year. Knife crime in isolation has also risen, along with theft.

Against this background, keeping yourself and your staff safe is one of the most important things any publican can do.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) says that while difficult or violent customers are a “tiny minority”, all pubs should be thinking about how to manage safety and security, especially given that their staff are often the first to be targeted.

"While it’s not always possible to prevent incidents, there are precautions you can adopt to deter crime in and around your premises. Although it seems obvious, staff training is an essential step in the right direction.”

- Daniel Davies, CPL Training CEO

Within a BBPA document, titled Managing Safety in Pubs, publicans are recommended to “mitigate the menace” of some individuals’ behaviour towards yourself, staff or other customers, adding it is important that a full assessment of the risks from intentional violence is undertaken.

This risk assessment should be reviewed on a regular basis, particularly in the light of any incidents that do occur, and in any event to ensure that the assessment is kept up to date.

In a further BBPA document titled Licensed Property: Security in Design​, the organisation advises: “Risks vary depending on the type and design of premises and should be considered at both the design and operational stages.

“Risks to be assessed include theft, burglary, robbery, vandalism, personal attack, drugs and terrorism.

“It is highly unlikely that any one property will be threatened by or vulnerable to all of these. However, tackling one problem area usually reduces the risk from others, which is a huge advantage now and in the future.”

Problem customers

Risk ​assessments

The following may be significant factors in the occurrence of violent incidents in pubs and other late-night venues:

 Social tension and rivalry (sporting, territorial)

 Frustration – waiting to get served 

 Overcrowding and discomfort – pushing to the bar and lavatories

 Intolerance – bumping on dance floor/busy area, spilled drinks

 Influence of drugs taken before entry 

 Queues at the door and refused entry (ID checks)

 Staff (lack of intervention or too aggressive)

 Refusal to serve those underage or drunk

 Removal of glasses with drinks remaining 

 Failure to clear tables

Stonegate head of risk Rob Hawkesworth says that employing door staff at busy times can be beneficial because it can help “stop problematic customers entering in the first place”

“It can take the onus off bar and waiting staff to be vigilant,” he previously told MA​.

And a pub can have as many door staff as it wishes, subject to them having the correct Security Industry Authority (SIA) status, says Andy Grimsey, partner at law firm Poppleston Allen.

Door staff can also help if someone starts to become violent.

However, Grimsey warns: “Neither the licensee nor the door staff can use anything beyond reasonable force.

“What is reasonable is rather fluid depending on the level of force or aggression being used by the customer and the individual circumstances of each case.

“Criminal and civil law may apply, both in respect of offences and defences to any charges.”

Grimsey adds: “Having additional CCTV is advisable, subject to complying with data protection law, and having sufficient and suitable signs notifying customers of the presence of cameras, particularly in external areas.”


CPL Training Group CEO Daniel Davies says that when it comes to criminal activity, a publican has a responsibility to go “above and beyond” to protect staff, customers and the premises.

“While it’s not always possible to prevent incidents, there are precautions you can adopt to deter crime in and around your premises,” he says.

“Although it seems obvious, staff training is an essential step in the right direction.”

Davies says that with skills that are appropriate to their job role, both publicans and their employees can play an important part in crime prevention.

“In any pub, there is a potential for alcohol-related crime,” he continues.

“To be effective in combating this problem, conflict management should form a vital part of mandatory training.

“By providing this type of training, you can have confidence that staff can handle incidents in a way that doesn’t jeopardise their own safety or that of your customers”.

In addition to this, there are courses that aim to tackle alcohol-related harm head-on, Davies adds.

A prime example is Drinkaware’s new Vulnerability e-learning course, which provides staff with the skills to identify and safeguard those who are at risk of harm.

“With Christmas and new year fast approaching, it’s important to have at least two personal licence holders on duty, to ensure your premises is operating safely and securely,” continues Davies.

Another solution is to consider whether you require CCTV or door supervision, which is “known to be an effective method of security and deterring criminal activity”, he says.

Working with police

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), highlights the importance of working with police and consulting experts for advice.

She says: “Managers and licensees should make sure all team members are aware of the appropriate procedures in the event of disturbances, violence or the threat of violence, and of all safety and security arrangements in place in the unlikely event of an emergency occurring.”

“Irrespective of the different types of crimes, pubs are at the heart of their communities, so taking all of the necessary precautions has never been more important.”

- Daviel Davies, CPL Training CEO

She continues: “We work closely with the police to highlight crimes and attacks against premises and to push for closer, constructive working between the sector and police forces to ensure incidents are not recorded against businesses but can be addressed.

“For larger scale security emergencies, the National Police Chief’s Council provides guidance on staying safe and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office has produced tailored advice for hospitality businesses.

“Make sure you take the time to consult expert guidance such as these and ensure that a plan is in place and that all members of staff are aware of it and their responsibilities.”


Top tips from the Crowded Places Guidance for the UK

 The initial decision making, regarding emergency response, is usually made by the management of the crowded place. Initial decision making should not be delayed in order to wait for instruction or action from the police. Speed of decision making and implementation are critical. Decisive individuals will save lives.

 Decide on an appropriate response. Establish if the threat is external or internal to the venue. If it is within the venue consider evacuation, but if the threat or incident is outside, it may be safer to stay inside. Initiating evacuation, invacuation, lockdown and/or use of protected spaces should be the responsibility of the responsible individual.

 Report any incident to the police as soon as possible to initiate an appropriate response.

 Remember: Follow the RUN, TELL, HIDE advice.

The former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office Chris Phillips warns pubs and bars to increase their security following the devastating bombing at the Manchester Arena in May.

On terrorism, Davies says: “Over the past few months, we’ve seen a different type of crime affect licensed premises which, perhaps, you may not think applies to you.

“The recent terror attacks near London Bridge, which saw pubs, bars and restaurants caught up in the middle, is causing many operators to take counter-terrorism precautions – and rightly so.

“Irrespective of the different types of crimes, pubs are at the heart of their communities, so taking all of the necessary precautions has never been more important.”

To protect yourself against terrorism in your pub, the Crowded Places Guidance for the UK gives protective security advice to those who own, operate, manage or work in night-time economy (NTE) businesses.

It is aimed at venues where there may be a risk of a terrorist attack by the very nature that they are crowded places.

It covers the key areas of protective security including physical, personnel, personal and cyber, as well as detailed advice on evacuation, invacuation, lockdown and protected spaces.

The document highlights the importance of operators recognising the risks, developing security plans, training staff, carrying out rehearsal exercises and understanding their roles and responsibilities.

As the above has shown, no matter what the threat – be it from a person who has had too much to drink and becomes violent, or from someone who wants to create mass panic – there are several steps to take and ways of protecting yourself and your staff.

Related topics: Health & safety

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